As my relationship with horrorbid continues to grow stronger, I'll look to bring some of my long-running column ideas to life. Today, for instance you’re being subjected to my first installment of “Literature vs. Film”, an introspective structure I plan to contribute on a weekly bas. The idea behind the article is mple, compare works of film that have been adapted from novels, novellas and short stories; break down the key differences, highlight the milarities, and ultimately, weigh in with my opinion of just how faithful the film was in direct comparison to the story itself.
First on the block, is the fan-favorite story (and now feature) “The Midnight Meat Train”.
Author: Clive Barker
Source: Books of Blood Volume One (short story)
Barker’s tale of Leon Kaufman, an unsuspecting buness man who finds himself on the wrong train at the wrong time, is really rather short, and direct. Leon’s a bunessman, Mahogany, a murderous servant of “the city’s fathers”. Mahogany’s task is mple: provide freshly carved (and prepared) human meals to a secret society of cannibalistic mutants who appear to have been around nce Noah was gathering lumber for his ark. Leon’s task is to survive the ordeal and escape the train.
The story doesn’t allow for much back-plot, but in this specific case, I wouldn’t leap to brand it a necesty. What we’re really treated to is a ngle encounter, in which the torch of servitude is passed from one slaughtering hulk of flesh to the next.
The story is told well; fast paced and tenon filled. There are plenty of great visuals to mull over in the mind, and, now that the story has been transferred to film, it’s even eaer to see the violence as it unfolds behind your eyes. As aforementioned, there’s not much historical relevance explored, in direct relation to the characters, but Barker still manages to generate a very real connection to his characters.
The finale is absolutely fantastic, and worthy of heavy praise. I won’t ruin the major details of the story’s final pages, for those not fortunate enough to have read the tale yet. but I’ll tell you it supersedes expectations. Leon’s encounter with the mysteriously nister race is unnerving, and with no lull in Barker’s masterfully crafted anxiety, it makes for a genuinely frightening finale.
Director Ryûhei Kitamura does a surpringly sound job of transferring Barker’s gruesome account. While there are major character explorations that reveal quite different backgrounds to those of the source material, the approach is in a sense an inevitability given the fact that Kitamura is working at transferring a 40 page short story into a full length feature.
In the film, Leon (Bradley Cooper) is an aspiring photographer, who is anything but the out-of-shape Jewish fellow portrayed in the story. A few extra characters are introduced, and in order to assemble a picture of this nature, at feature length, it was an obviously required maneuver. Thankfully, Kitamura’s characters are for the most part likeable as well as memorable.
During the film, we get the chance to see a series of individuals victimized; virtually destroyed by an obnoxiously large meat tenderizer (in the story, Mahogany keeps his tools limited to meat cleavers and knives). The additional body count helps keep the film’s pacing engaging. While, of course inflating the level of violence that horror fans have become so fixated upon acts as a satisfying payoff for those hungry for blood, brains and guts.
In the end, the finale is reasonably faithful to the source material. The film’s concluon lacks the intimacy of Barker’s original climax, but the primary details are delivered with confidence. By the time the films credits roll, we understand that Leon is now the butcher, we understand why he’s about to begin his mison as human executioner, and we understand that a primitive cannibalistic species dwells deep in the train station’s tunnels.
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